As the Worlds memories begin to fade and thoughts turn to the late season classics in northern Italy and France, VeloVeritas takes a last look back at the Cauberg. But this time through the eyes of a man who rode that beast of a hill all 11 times at the World Road Championship, Ireland’s Ronan McLaughlin.
McLaughlin finished 105th @ 8:55 in a group which contained men like Ryder Hesjedal and Zdenek Stybar; after working hard for Dan Martin and Nico Roche.
It’s unusual for a professional to spend five seasons with one team – and very rare for a 25 year old rider to be with the same squad for that period of time.
But 2012 was Ronan McLaughlin’s fifth year with the Belgian/Irish An-Post – his palmares aren’t vast.
Medals in the Irish U23 road and time trial championships and a fine fourth overall in the tough Mi-Aout-Bretonne in 2010 are the highlights.
But McLaughlin has spent a lot of time in the wind these past five seasons; with winning riders like Gediminas Bagdonas and Flandrian legend Niko Eeckhout (aka ‘Rambo’) as team mates there’s always work to be done.
VeloVeritas spoke to McLaughlin as he prepared for the Franco-Belge stage race recently.
Are you happy with your season, Ronan?
“I came close to three wins – I’d be much happier if they’d gone my way.
“I was away in a solo break in the Ras for 75 kilometres but was caught with 100 metres to go.
“There were similar stories in a stage in France and a kermis in Belgium – if I’d got those three wins then it would have been a different season.”
Which achievement are you happiest with, this year?
“It would have to be being selected for the Worlds, riding with Dan Martin and Nicolas Roche.
“I’ve ridden the Worlds before, but as an U23, not the elite race.”
What was the Irish game plan?
“To try and set up Dan for as good a finale as we could – Nicolas had more of a free role.
“My job was to look after them, tend to their needs, get bottles and generally try to keep them out of trouble.”
We heard that the 100 K which you rode before entering the circuit was pretty technical?
“The first 60 K was like a criterium, up, down, left, right – usually in a long race like that the break will go early, but it was 50 K before it went.
“There wasn’t really one easy part during the entire race – maybe five minutes – it was hard all the way.”
Had you trained on the Cauberg before the race?
“No, when we arrived the circuit was closed for the other races on the Worlds programme – but I saw it enough on Sunday!”
What was it like when you hit it on lap one?
“I’ve never seen anything like it before; now I know what it must be like when you run out at Old Trafford, the noise was just incredible and it got louder as the race went on, every lap.”
What did you think of the circuit?
“I thought it was very good; it was challenging with the two climbs and the wind but not so hard that everyone was scared of it.
“It was very deceiving, the race was never totally savage but it was chipping away at you all the time.
“You’d look back and think; ‘I thought that there were more guys than that left!’
“It was a constant wearing down process.”
Are you happy with your ride?
“Considering it was my first Worlds I was happy enough – the longest I’d raced prior to Sunday was 220 K and that was 267 K.
“I did my job and finished, even though I was held up by the big crash with two laps to go.
“It feels a bit anonymous to ride and not to show by getting in a move – but I had a job to do.”
How were the legs on Monday?
“They weren’t too bad, I did an hour on the rollers – for the first 20 minutes I was pedaling squares but then I was fine.
“I did three hours today (Tuesday) then I have the Franco-Belge starting on Thursday.”
You must be getting close to your last race of the season?
“No, I still have eight race days – I have the Franco-Belge then UCi 1.1’s before the end of the year.
“Usually Putte-Kapellen on October 9th is the last race, but this year there’s another pro kermis after that.”
Are you back with AN Post for 2013?
“I don’t know yet, I’m working on that at the moment.”
And will ‘Rambo’ (Ronan’s team mate Niko Eeckhout, 42 in December) be having one more year?
“He hasn’t said yet, but he’s still going well – winning races.”
What does your winter look like?
“I’ll take a couple of weeks off the bike but I won’t be going away anywhere.
“I spend the whole season away from home so it’s nice to be back and not travelling.
“I’m looking forward to meeting friends and having a few nights out before I start the gradual build up to 2013 . . .”